Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Thoughts on Observation Deck

I'm working on grad school applications so time is limited. That's why I haven't done any picks in a while. Not that I was doing well anyway. When I have more time again I plan to go back and do an analysis on how I was doing with my picks on a team by team basis. Sort of a self-audit.

Dwyer's recent column

The Observation Deck makes some interesting observations and some misleading observations. We'll go over the more misleading and more interesting ones.

First Dwyer talks about how the paint is officiated today.

His premise is that, while the NBA did need to respond to the increase of players taking charges, their response only made the problem worse. They figured, well, if we make it illegal to take a charge right under the basket, then there will be fewer charging calls. What they didn't consider was that all those calls that used to be charging calls now became blocking calls. The problem of the game being slowed down remains. He argues that what the NBA should have done was allow, "contact [that] doesn't give a clear advantage to either the offense or defense..." That it should be a non-call.

There are two potential problems with this idea:

1) Although I don't see this being the case, the NBA might argue that it is too much to ask its referees to interpret when contact is or is not advantageous to a team, that the gray area would be huge and, although there would be fewer calls, the officiating would inevitably be very inconsistent. I understand this argument, but i am of the opinion that NBA officials are experts at gray area. I would guess that something like 2/3s of the calls made in any one game might be non-calls in another.

2) The second point here is more difficult to get around. NBA players make a hell of a lot of money and owners want their investments protected. If you make contact under the basket a little more legal, then these athletes that owners are paying millions are more likely to get knocked down in mid-flight. They are more likely to get hurt. Yes, in the 80s we had a lot of above the rim players, but today there are many many more, making much more $. THese guys have a lot further to fall. The top leapers in the NBA can get almost 4 feet in the air. If someone takes their legs out, the come down on their wrist (ala richard jefferson when he missed 49 games in 04-05), they are much more likely to get hurt. The NBA has a responsibility to protect its owners' investments.

In googling for some charging data I found another interesting article that covers the same idea. It's from 2003, but Dennis Hans' points are still relevant. Oh Keon Clark, you were such an explosive shot-blocker!

Hans feels the same way as Kelly. He is annoyed that the less difficult and less exciting play often has a higher reward. He's sick of watching the immobile Jason Collins. Good lord, so am I.

He proposes that the solution is to get rid of the semi-circle, so refs don't look at the call as black and white. Keep the circle in their minds, but tell them to focus more on "the precise position of the defender when the driver reaches the point of no return — that is, the point at which the driver cannot change his directional path even if he wants to."

He explains the point of no return as, "PRIOR to [a player's] second-to-last step... If you need to accelerate or change direction, you do that by altering how and where you place that second-to-last foot." This, I think, is a very good point. How often do you see a player get called for a charge, when it is obvious that there was no way he could have avoided it? How often is it that a defender slides into position after the offensive player has no way of stopping? You may call it good defense, but I call it a loophole in the rules. It's not good basketball. If a player lowers his shoulder, or puts his head down and barrels straight over a player who was just standing there waiting for him, charge, definitely. Otherwise, let's reward skilled play. Let's make the defenders make a play at blocking shots or, better yet, keeping players out of the paint.

Now I'm not advocating punishing a defender that guesses right. If I'm guarding a dude and I have a feeling he's about to make a move to his left, I jump to his left and he still runs right over me, that's a charge, but if I am making a move into the paint and between the time I take the step leading into jumping and the time I shoot, a defender jumps in front of me, that shouldn't be a charge.

The very important distinction between these two situations is that in the first one, the defender is able to anticipate what the offensive player is going to do before they take that action. In the second scenario the defender doesn't make his play until after the offensive player has no choice. There is no outwitting going on in the second scenario. Offensive players should be punished for poor decision-making. Defensive players should be rewarded for having the awareness to anticipate the offensive players' next decision, not just for being brave enough to take a big hit.

Tony Barone making a turnaround in Memphis?
You can't compare pre-Fratello and post-Fratello stats. The Grizz were just getting back into the flow of things with Pau back when Fratello was fired. Although I believe Fratello had to go and that Barone is wise to go up tempo and give young guys more PT, I don't think it will result in many more wins than Fratello's style would have, this year. The payoff with getting rid of Fratello is that you get the same number of wins, but your young players get more experience, and maybe next year you see some improvement in wins. Improvement that a Fratello coached team would not have seen.

Ariza vs. Jared Jeffries
I don't see why Dwyer feels it apt to compare Jared Jeffries to Trevor Ariza. Isiah Thomas did not trade Ariza for Jeffries. At the behest of his coach, who I believe, at the time, had more support than Thomas from owner James Dolan, Isiah Thomas traded for Steve Francis. Yes, he could have had Ariza for less $ than he gave Jeffries, but its not like the Knicks were the only team to pay a player worse than Ariza more $. I don't really know if Ariza is a better player than Jeffries right now. They both can't shoot, they both play good defense. Ariza is can jump a lot higher and is an excellent dunker, but his offensive game is even more unpolished than Jeffries'. Ariza has no handle, is awkward around the rim when he can't dunk, has no perimeter shot at all (Jeffries is a poor shooter, but can at least make the occasional jump shot). Dwyer says that Ariza has been a solid contributor in Orlando, but the Magic were 3-6 when Hedo Turkoglu (hardly an all-star) was out and Ariza played extra minutes.

Sean May is underappreciated
You bet he is. I agree 100%. The main reason he is underappreciated is because he's been hurt so much. He's a smart player, something the new NBA puts a premium on, not just in it's guards, but in bigs too.

Free Mo-Pete!
Fred Jones isn't overrated. We all know he sucks. Sam Mitchell is the only one who thinks he is good. This guy is a moron. I can't believe his team continues to win. The only thing that frustrates me more in the NBA is that KG is still on Minnesota. Morris Peterson is good. He is good defensively, he is an excellent perimeter shooter. I don't see why Sam Mitchell would choose to play tough with him, if that's even the reason why he's coming off the bench. Anyway, he's on 3 of my 4 fantasy teams so the Raptors need to use him or lose him.

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